Planning Halloween animal enrichment
Can you believe it’s October? The leaves will soon start falling, the school semester is well underway, and the air is crisp! Well … two out of three of those things are true, at least! It has been pretty sweltering here in Atlanta, but despite the heat, Halloween is just around the corner! Zoo Atlanta will be celebrating with Boo at the Zoo presented by Georgia Natural Gas on October 19, 20, 26, and 27.
I love Boo at the Zoo! It has a fun, festival-like atmosphere with candy booths and decorations, everyone is dressed up in costumes, and best of all, the animals get extra-special holiday enrichment! Earlier this year I took on the role of holiday enrichment coordinator for the entire Zoo, and it has been so fun to learn more about how our holiday enrichment days are planned! A lot goes on behind the scenes year-round to prepare for special holidays like Halloween, and it takes a big team to make it happen.
Our preparations for Boo at the Zoo started in July, back when it was also 95 degrees outside, but at least it was supposed to be. My main job in holiday preparation is to gather special enrichment requests from every animal care team in the Zoo. These are usually things like paper chains in holiday colors, papier maché shapes, themed cardboard cutouts or boxes, etc. These requests go to our Volunteer Enrichment Team, which meets a couple times per month to work on making these requests a reality. They are responsible for producing the amazingly creative designs you see in our animal habitats when you visit on a holiday! Beyond creating various paper-based enrichment, the Volunteer Enrichment Team builds scarecrows, bed sheet “ghosts,” and burlap sack jack-o’-lanterns. They also prepare “scentcicles” and “fruitcicles” – frozen ice treats with scents or produce. They even create spiders and webs from sprigs of eleagnus! In the days preceding the event, they organize the enrichment for pickup by the various animal care teams. Then it’s time to enjoy watching the animals have fun!
Without the Volunteer Enrichment Team, our special holiday celebrations throughout the year would not be possible. If you are interested in joining the Volunteer Enrichment Team and putting your crafting skills to work for the animals, please check out our volunteer opportunities here: https://zooatlanta.org/program-type/volunteer-programs/. The best part is that even if you are terrible at crafts like I am, the animals don’t care! They will enjoy it just the same.
Keeper III, Mammals